sam's notes

notes on government, sports and popular culture

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

As I've written before, I've got a liberal buddy who busts my chops about Bush and the environment. His big thing is the administration's changes in regulations for mercury emissions. In his mind, Bush is making millions off the power industry while people everywhere are suffering from mercury poisoning.

To quote John Kerry, "It's never that simple."

No one's saying mercury emissions aren't a problem. Power plants, which heat our homes and power our TVs and computers, out 48 tons of mercury into the air every year. The EPA estimates eight percent of women of childbearing years have levels of mercury that exceeds the level it considers safe.

And there's no doubt the power industry is a powerful lobbyist. Even Ronald Bailey of the Reason Public Policy institute writes, "The Bush administration has sometimes been a bit too eager to reward its donor base in industry with regulatory relief rather than grapple honestly with real concerns raised by scientific data or propose market-based solutions to environmental problems."

The most informative and balanced article on the situation was this one in the Washington Post. Basically there a difference in philosophy between the Bush and Clinton administrations in the regulating mercury emissions.

In December 2000, the EPA, under the Clinton administration, put in place regulations to reduce stating that mercury emissions should be reduced 90 percent by 2007. But it's questionable whether or not the technology exists to meet that goal. The original idea was that equipment used to reduce greenhouse gases would also reduce mercury. But EPA and DOE officials didn't find this out until 2002, which renders the 2007 deadline practically impossible, the power industry says.

So, in the meantime, the Bush administration reccomends the "cap and trade" approach, where companies can buy "credits" from other companies that have have met mercury emission goals. The cap and trade program has been successful in reducing other emissions and was supported by Kerry to help reduce greenhouse gases.

But the problem is the EPA, under the Bush administration, wants to stretch the cap-and trade program until 2018, which is, needless to say too long for environmental groups. So hopefully some sort of compromise can be worked out.

So I'm not too worked up about Bush and the environment. Help me out if I'm missing the point.


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